Christianity 201

September 19, 2016

What it Looks Like to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Today we’re introducing a new writer to you. Jonathan Parrish writes at Walking With Christ Daily, now in its 5th year. To read this at source and then check out their archives, click the title below.

How we can love our neighbor as yourself?

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

How are we to love our neighbor as ourselves? Some people have applied this to many things in life as lessons. From not judging others to giving to others, but what is a real way to love our neighbor as our self. I’m going to cover a few points that will help in a way that loving our neighbor as ourselves can have eternal and not just life impacts.

The first point I want to cover is looking out for needs of your neighbors, be it prayer, help during a rough financial patch, or even just talking to them. Neighbors can be more than just a literal neighbor it could be anyone you meet also.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

We should be fulfilling needs in our communities, friends, and family. If we truly want to love them as ourselves. And this is a just small way of meeting a physical need for someone. Especially if they don’t know Christ.

My second point is this. If you truly love someone like you love yourself, then guess what you will share the Gospel with them. The Gospel is the demonstration of love. So we should not be afraid to offend or be ashamed of the Gospel, but instead proclaim it to your community proclaim it everyone as you go about your daily life.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Romans 1:16

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1st Corinthians 1:18

We need to remember that someone in boldness shared the Gospel with us, know very well that we could reject it because we found it to be crazy or offending. They still did it because we are called to do that, but also because they loved you as much they loved themselves. So if we love someone as much as love ourselves then we won’t worry about our reputations, but instead will worry about the fact that neighbor, friend, family member is condemned to Hell.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

Last, if we love them as ourselves, we will grow and disciple them. We won’t leave them out there to dry. They need to be led and taught. They need to be grown in the likeness of Christ. We start with the basics and we work our way up. We don’t let them catch on in a more mature Sunday class or as they go. We take them one on one and show them how to have a quiet time, teach them what it means to be a Christian and prepare them to go out and share the Gospel with their neighbors.

So when we love each other as Jesus commanded us to, we meet physical needs with our neighbors, we share the Gospel with them, and once they come to salvation we help grow and disciple them into mature Christians. That is how we love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus proved it ultimately at the cross when He died for all of our sins and rose again. So get out there and love somebody this week.

January 1, 2015

The People Whose Name You Can’t Speak

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

NIV Footnotes:

  1. Luke 10:27 Deut. 6:5
  2. Luke 10:27 Lev. 19:18
  3. Luke 10:35 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer (see Matt. 20:2).

Each of us, myself included, carries baggage into a new year. Perhaps family or work events surrounding the holiday season left you upset or angry with relatives or coworkers, or inflamed relationships which were already hurting. That’s the topic of today’s thoughts.

Today we are drawing on the writing of an author who I feel has much to say to us, despite his recent associations and proclivity to controversy. (That in itself is a microcosm of the text he’s writing on.) For that reason, I thought I’d put the credit and link at the very end, though you’re free to scroll down.

The Reason Why People Miss the Point of the Good Samaritan Story

Let’s take a look at a familiar story from the Bible, shall we? How about the story about the Good Samaritan? Because everybody knows that one. It’s about the importance of helping people who are in trouble, right?

You could make it about that. And that might be helpful. But you’d be missing the point of the story. Most people completely miss the point of the story. 

Here’s why: Jesus tells this story (It’s in Luke 10) in response to a question. And the more you understand the question, the more you can see just how brilliant and provocative the story is. 

The question is asked by a lawyer, who wants to know What must I do to inherit eternal life?

A couple of truths about this question this lawyer asks:

First, the lawyer doesn’t want to know. He already has an opinion. That’s what lawyers (which means scripture expert) did in the first century: they had opinions about the scriptures which they spent hours discussing. Or more realistically- debating. This man is not new to the game, he’s one of the elite, a long standing member of the religious establishment. It’s important to note that whatever Jesus says, this man will have something to say in response to it. 

Second, when the lawyer asks about eternal life he’s not asking about life after you die. What happens when you die was not something people in Jesus day talked much about and it wasn’t something Jesus taught about much at all. In the first century world that Jesus inhabited the focus was this life, this time, here and now. Not life after death but life before death. So when you had a chance to interact with a great spiritual teacher or rabbi, that was one of the first questions you would ask them–How do I have the most/best/fullest life right now? 

Eternal life was a phrase people used to describe a quality of life, the kind that comes from living in harmony and peace and connection with God. 

Jesus, of course, responds like a good Jewish rabbi, asking the man what the Torah teaches. Jesus responds this way because in the first century Jewish world that Jesus lived and moved in, the answer to how you have the best, most full and vibrant life was believed to be in the Torah (That’s the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures. Genesis, Exodus, etc…) How does it teach you to live? 

The lawyer isn’t surprised at all by Jesus’ question to his question–

let’s pause here and note that Jesus responds to his question with a question. This, once again, was not at all unusual for his day. Jesus is asked lots of questions in the gospels, and he responds to almost all of them with…a question–

he isn’t surprised because life revolved around the Torah and so Jesus’s answer-that-is-really-a-question is how he would have expected him to respond. The lawyer then quotes Deuteronomy and Leviticus about how loving God and loving your neighbor are the most important things you can do–they’re how you enter in to this particular kind of life that they called eternal life

Jesus then says to him That’s cool.

Well, not exactly. But pretty close. Jesus responds You’ve given the right answer; do this, and you will live.

Which is the end of the exchange, right?
What else is there to talk about?

The lawyer asks a question, Jesus asks him a question about his question, he answers the question about his question, Jesus tells him he got it right. Conversation over. 

Except it isn’t.
(By the way, we aren’t even to the Good Samaritan part yet and you can already smell something is up, can’t you…?)

Another parenthesis, just for good times:

(When people say the Bible is boring, I always know they’re saying that because they haven’t actually read it. Because if you actually read it, and enter into the stories, and the depth and background and context and innuendo and hyperbole, the one thing you will not be is bored…)

But the conversation isn’t over, because the text reads

But wanting to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus And who is my neighbor?

Ohhhhhhhhhh. Interesting…the dude had an agenda all along! It’s a set up. All that question and response and love your neighbor blah blah blah was all a set up! The lawyer has an issue with Jesus, he disagrees with Jesus, and his questioning was to get to the point of conflict. Which has something to do with who your neighbor is. It’s as if he says

Yeah yeah yeah, we can do Torah all day and agree that loving your neighbor is how you get eternal life but we both know that you and I, Jesus, don’t agree on who our neighbor even is…

At which point Jesus then launches into a story about a certain man who was going to Jericho from Jerusalem and was beaten and left by the side of the road. A priest comes along and passes by on the other side-

let’s stop there.
That’s funny.
The road between those two cities was a trail a few feet wide. With a cliff. Jesus is being funny here because there was no other side.

Then a Levite comes along and does the same thing. 

The priest and the Levite are the bad guys, right?

Nope. The man on the side of the road has been beaten, hasn’t he? Which means he’s bloody, correct? And according to the Torah, if you have contact with someone else’s blood you would be considered ceremonially unclean, correct? And if you’re a priest or Levite, to serve your people, to be true to your God, to contribute your part to the community, you can only do that if you remain ceremonially clean, correct? So when they come across the man, they each have a to make a decision

Do I help just this one man and in the process make myself unclean which means I can’t serve for a period of time?

You with me? Any telling of this story that makes them the bad guys misses the point. Which we’re about to arrive at…

Then, a third dude comes along. Let’s pause for a minute and point out that it’s only logical for the third person to be a lawyer who then helps the wounded man. Then Jesus would have made his point to the lawyer about how your neighbor is anyone who is in need that you are passing by. Which is how a lot of people tell this story. 

Which completely misses the point.

It isn’t a lawyer who comes along, it’s a…wait for it…Samaritan. And teachers of law and lawyers hated Samaritans. This is the last character the lawyer would have expected to enter the story. Samaritans were the TalibanPedophilesWhoKickPuppies of the day. This hatred went way back, generations back, and it ran really, really deep. But in this story that Jesus tells, the Samaritan helps the man. 

This story would have been next to impossible for the lawyer to hear. A good Samaritan? In our day when people use the phrase Good Samaritan it is said without disgust or irony or most of all disbelief. It’s not an oxymoron now. It was then. A good Samaritan was impossible. It didn’t exist in their minds. Jesus then finishes this story in which a Samaritan is the hero and asks the lawyer 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? 

Boom! Do you see how insanely brilliant and clever and subversive Jesus is here? Please tell me you see it-because the whole thing started with the lawyer asking Jesus a loaded question, didn’t it? And so what does Jesus do? He tells a story that appears to ramble way off into the deep weeds, then a shocking character enters the story and ends up the hero, and then Jesus turns the table on the lawyer and asks 

Who was the neighbor?

The answer is The Samaritan, right? Yes, that’s correct.

But how does the lawyer answer?

The one who showed him mercy.

Oh man. The lawyer can’t even say the word Samaritan. That’s how deep his hatred goes. He can’t even say the word. 

Have you ever noticed how people often refer to the person they used to be married to as their ex? How rarely you hear them actually say the person’s name? Names connect us. Names bond us. Names create intimacy. If feels terrible to forget someone’s name, doesn’t it?

But this lawyer, he can’t even answer Jesus’s question by saying the name. He simply replies the one

That’s your neighbor.
That’s who you’re called to love.
That’s where the eternal life is found.
In loving your neighbor, the one you hate, the one you despise, the one you wish didn’t exist, the one who’s name you can’t even say.

Now obviously some people we avoid. Some people we have boundaries with. Some people are so toxic and dangerous and hurtful, some people have done so much damage to us we have to keep our distance. We love them from a distance. That’s all part of being healthy. But even then, we forgive so that the hate and bitterness won’t eat us alive.

Do you see why I began by talking about the point of the story? You can make it about roadside assistance, which is fine, and maybe even helpful, but Jesus is calling us to something way bigger and higher and deeper and transcendent. Jesus is calling the man to love like God loves. Which means everybody. Even those you hate the most. Jesus is challenging the man to extend divine love to those who are the most difficult to love. That’s where it’s at. That’s the answer to the question. That’s where the eternal life is.

~Rob Bell, part 74 in a continuing series, What is the Bible.

June 22, 2013

The Bible on Love: Ten Important Verses

lovedToday I’m excited to introduce you to yet another quality Bible study and devotional blog.  Jack Wellman blogs at Christian Crier. I was going to just copy the ten verses Jack highlights, but this really needs to be read in full. I encourage you to read this at source, where it appeared under the title 10 Most Important Bible Verses on Love.

If you had to choose one, which is the most important love verse in the Bible?  Why would you choose one over the other?  What seems to be the most important verses in the Bible on love?

For God So Loved the World

John 3:16  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Some manuscripts take the first part of this verse, “God so loved the world” and render it as “for this is how God loved the world.”  I like that very much.  When we get closer to the literal Greek wording of this verse, it gets even better.  We could read it as:  “For this is how God loved the world, that He gave His one and unique Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.”  Either way you read it, this Bible verse may be the most important verse of all for it displays such a sacrificial love – a life-giving love – which is unequaled and unmatched in all the world.  Love is a verb and it’s what you do…and this act at Calvary was the most supreme act of love that has ever been displayed.  That Christ died for us while we were still His enemies and most unworthy sinners at that, shows that love is an act of the will and not a feeling in the heart.

Greater Love Has No Man

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We could paraphrase this verse to read, “No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.” This reminds me of the many veterans who are serving and who have ever served their countries for their nation’s freedom.  Many did give their lives to defend what we often take for granted.  I have heard true stories of veterans who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it.  Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act.  That kind of love reflects the agape love of God.   The agape love is the greatest love that there is and it is the type of love that gives a person over to sacrificing their own life to save another.  This love was most abundantly displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ.  He gave His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

It is natural to love your family and friends, but to love those who hate you and persecute you?  Wow.  God loved us before we even existed (Eph 1) and died for us while we were still sinners and His enemies.  By the way, anytime Jesus says “You have heard it said” He is referring to the Old Testament laws and so when Jesus follows that by saying “but I say to you,” He is referring to the New and better Testament.  This is a difficult one indeed and it can’t be done in human strength but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In this reference in Matthew, Jesus says that God is gracious even to those who are sinners, sending sunshine and rain to them…which are essential to life.  The analogy might be that God even gives the sinner’s good things in life because He is a benevolent God.  This is why good things sometimes happen to bad people.

Love Is Unselfish

First Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

First Corinthians chapter 13 may be the greatest chapter on love in all the Bible and love is displayed here by many tangible evidences.  It is patient; with people and circumstances.  It is kind; to people and animals.  It doesn’t brag; about self but brags about others and glorifies God and gives Him the credit.  It isn’t arrogant; lording over people your position, power, or knowledge.  It isn’t rude; but polite and displays manners and proper etiquette.  It doesn’t insist on its own way; but give precedence and priorities to others, even if it has to compromise.  It isn’t irritable; it is not easily provoked to anger by people or circumstances.  It isn’t resentful; it rejoices when others succeed, even at their own expense.  It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing; it never delights in other people’s sins…instead, it rejoices in the truth of the Bible, it bears all thing (all means all), believes all things (gives people the benefit of the doubt), hopes all things (hopes for the best for all concerned) and endures all (all, like being used, abused, persecuted and so on).   These things are love.

Love Your Neighbor as Your Self

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The religious leaders were trying to trip Jesus up by asking Him which was the greatest commandment and Jesus nailed it spot on when He said that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, might, mind, and soul.  But we are also to love our neighbors.  Who are our neighbors?  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus showed that all men and women are our neighbors and so we should love them as well, even if they were a “Samaritan” to us.  Part of this command is not obeyed by many good Christians…the part where we are to love ourselves as our neighbors.  When we hate ourselves and are extremely hard on ourselves, we are breaking this commandment where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Love One Another

John 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 13 and 14, Jesus gave the disciples, and by extension, all who would be His disciples, a new commandment.  This new commandment was to love one another “just as” or in the same manner that Christ loves us.  That is a big-time love my friend.  By this love we have for one another “all people will know that you are my disciples” and so this love for one another is evangelistic and it is diagnostic…diagnostic in the sense that it proves that we are either His disciple or we are not.  In the church today there are both wheat and tares and Christ will separate them some day.  Those who are His inherit eternal life…those that are tares, are plucked up and burned.

If You Love Me, Obey My Commandments

John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be worthy of being on anyone’s top 10 list of Bible verses on love, but wait…let me explain why I chose this one.  We display our love for others when they ask us to do something and we do it willingly because we love them.  If we truly love Jesus, why wouldn’t we want to please Him by obeying what He has told us to do?  Obedience is preferred over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).  Samuel asks a rhetorical question in this verse:  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God would rather have a person obey Him than to offer many or costly sacrifices because obedience shows respect and love for the one to whom it is given.

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

First Peter 4:8  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

My children and grandchildren sin and will sin again but no amount of sins will ever stop me from loving them.  My friends have sometimes sinned against me too but to display my love for them, I am willing to forgive them, whether they ask my forgiveness or not.  Since we are all sinners, I can not cast the first stone and many times I have caught them in a sin but never mention it to anyone else.  Love does not gossip and when see others sin and don’t tell other people, we are covering for them.  The exception is that if it hurts the church…like gossip.  If they acknowledge their sin, repent of it, and confess it, then it is covered by God and so why would I gossip to others to say, “Hey, did you hear about so and so and what he/she did?”  Jesus death on the cross, and the love displayed in that action, covers all of our sins (2 Cor 5:21).   Proverbs 17:9 says much the same thing as the author writes, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” and that “love covers over all wrongs” (Prov 10:12b).

Love of a Friend

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

I have a close, special friend of mine who is a man and I am not ashamed to tell him that I love him.  I love him more than a brother.  This man is honest enough to tell me the truth, even when he knows it hurts and he is open enough to hear a friends rebuke.   King David and Jonathan had a love like this as described in 1 Samuel 18:1 “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” What a precious thing. Their souls were knit together…they were made of the same fabric, so to speak.  Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” which reminds me of Jesus’ second commandment of the two greatest…to love your neighbor as yourself.  This was repeated later in 1 Samuel 20:17 when “Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Marital Love

Genesis 29:20 “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Husband and wives love is reflective of Christ’s love for the church and the church of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:25-28 is one of the best descriptions of how a husband should love his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Men, there is no “plan B.”  This is an imperative command.   Men are to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her.  The greatest thing a husband can do for his wife is to love her.  Women, the greatest need for a man is to have respect for him because respect is interpreted as love just as women interprets love as respect for her.  Men and women have different needs and so for men it is to be respected and for women it is to be loved.  The husband and wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in that it is a sacrificial love.  When a man loves his wife, he would willingly give his life for her while the wife would more easily submit for a man willing to do this.

Conclusion

To me, these are the 10 most important verses in the Bible on love. You may have different ones.  If you do, please leave a comment and tell us which is your favorite Bible verse or verses on love.  What Bible verse is the most important to you and why?  Add your favorite Bible verse on love in the comments section below so that we might add it to our Bible verse love bank and by doing so, we can accumulate a vast treasure trove of God’s infinite love for those who Christ died for and even for those who are outside of the faith.  There is no greater love, there is no love more sacrificial, and there is no love that dies in your place, than that of Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still His enemies.  Paul wrote of this exact thing in Romans 5:6-8, 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ to save you from God’s wrath, then you don’t know the full extent of Gods’ love yet.  John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” because “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). I pray that is not you.